(navigation image)
Home American Libraries | Canadian Libraries | Universal Library | Community Texts | Project Gutenberg | Biodiversity Heritage Library | Children's Library | Additional Collections
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload
See other formats

Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

Pioneers of Language Planning         447
Society published the outcome of his efforts Wilkins was one of its
founders, an ardent Parliamentarian, husband of QomweiTs sister,
Robina, a man of great versatility and social idealism He was the first
man to popularize Galileo's ideas in England, and did so in a scientific
fantasy, published in 1642. In it he described a journey to the moon by
rocket Undoubtedly he was a genius It would be pleasant to add that
he acknowledged his indebtedness to an obscure Scots schoolmaster
He did not
Bishop Wilkins starts from the fact that we already possess such
symbols as +, , x, $, & Q> in the language of mathematics and
astronomy. Though pronounced in different ways in different coun-
tries, these symbols are the same on paper, and everywhere signify the
same thing to the educated From this he draws the Cartesian con-
clusion:
"If to every thing and notion there were assigned a distinct Mark,
together with some provision to express Grammatical Derivations and
Inflexions, this might suffice as to one great end of a Real Character,
nameiy, the expression of our Conceptions by Marks which should
signify things, and not words "
Wilkins realizes that if the number of marks is to be kept inside
manageable limits some classification of things and notions is indis-
pensable He therefore compiles, as Dalgarno did, a systematic cata-
logue as the foundation of his language. The whole body of contem-
porary knowledge is fossilized in a hierarchy of forty different classes,
such as plants, animals, spiritual actions, physical actions, motions,
possessions, matters naval, matters ecclesiastical, etc Each of the forty
pigeon-holes has its subdivisions with the exception of the fifth class,
which encloses HIM The Bishop aptly remarks that the capitalized
(and much hymned to) Him is not divisible into any subordinate
species
The world-lexicon of Wilkins is a pot-poum of Anstotelean fiction,
theological superstition, naturalistic fancy and much factual matter
The anthropomorphic outlook of the author and the low level of con-
temporary knowledge embodied in the catalogue is illustrated by his
treatment of Substance Inanimate He divides it into vegetative and
sensitive The vegetative splits into imperfect such as minerals, and
perfect, such as plants The imperfect vegetative distributes what we
should now call the materials of inorganic chemistry between stone and
metal Stones take the labels vulgar', middle-prized^ and precious Wilkins
divides the last into less transparent and more transparent